Recent Department of Justice (DOJ) Actions Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

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Recent Department of Justice (DOJ) Actions Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Feb 9 2009

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) provides information about cases they are involved with on their website www.ada.gov/new.htm . We have summarized information about cases that impact people who are hard of hearing or deaf. Visit www.ada.gov or the links provided below for more information about these and other cases.

Wal-Mart Stores. On January 16, 2009, DOJ entered into a settlement agreement with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to improve access for persons with disabilities at Wal-Mart stores nationwide. Many of the complaints alleged that persons with disabilities were denied access to Wal-Mart stores or were denied an equal opportunity to shop, free of repeated challenges by Wal-Mart staff, because they were accompanied by service animals. One person who filed a complaint indicated that Wal-Mart auto service department denied him equal access to its services because he was deaf and did not have a cellular telephone. Wal-Mart is required to take several steps to improve access for customers with disabilities, including welcoming persons with disabilities, training Wal-Mart employees, and posting its new service animal policy on its web site and in its stores.

Shopsmith, Inc., Dayton, Ohio. On December 1, 2008, DOJ entered into a settlement agreement with Shopsmith. This company provides educational materials and instruction in the use and operation of woodworking tools and equipment, as well as a variety of education programs through two academies, the Traveling Woodworking Academy and National Woodworking Academy. The Traveling Woodworking Academy provides hands-on training to customers at the home office in Dayton, Ohio, and one-day academies at places such as hotels and inns. The complaint alleged that Shopsmith refused to secure a qualified sign language interpreter or other auxiliary aids to ensure effective communication at one-day workshops by the Traveling Woodworking Academy. Shopsmith agreed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified interpreters, for live presentations at its academies.

Manhattan Hotels. The Marriott Marquis and the Muse Hotel in New York City have entered into settlement agreements to improve accessibility for customers with disabilities. Both hotels agreed to make any modifications necessary to make additional rooms accessible to persons with hearing loss. The hotels will provide portable visual alarms and communication devices and install sufficient electrical outlets (including outlets connected to the Hotel's central alarm system) and telephone wiring in units to enable persons with hearing loss to utilize the portable visual alarms and communication devices.

Concord Hospital. On September 18, 2008, Concord Hospital in Concord, New Hampshire, entered into a settlement agreement with DOJ resolving complaints that it had failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Both patients and family members of patients were denied qualified sign language interpreters or other adequate auxiliary aids and services to communicate with hospital staff and medical personnel. Concord Hospital agreed to establish a comprehensive program to provide effective communication in the future for patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Similar agreements with DOJ were reached Medbrook Medical Associates, Inc. in West Virginia, on December 8, 2008, and with HealthEast in Minnesota on August 19, 2008.

Elk Grove Village Police Dept. (Illinois). On October 28, 2008, DOJ entered into a settlement agreement with the police department requiring it to make available appropriate auxiliary aids and services to all members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing, where such aids and services are necessary to ensure effective communication with these individuals, especially persons who are arrested and brought into custody. www.ada.gov/elk_grove.htm

Germano v. International Profit Association, Inc. (IPA). On September 12, 2008, a federal Court of Appeals ruled that conversations conducted through the nationwide telecommunications relay service (TRS), between a person who uses a telephone and a person who uses a text telephone (TTY), are permitted as evidence in court on the same basis as conversations between two people speaking directly to each other by telephone. During a relay call, IPA offered to interview an applicant for a job but later withdrew the offer after realizing that he was deaf or hearing impaired because he had communicated with IPA through the relay service. IPA argued that the communication should be excluded as evidence. The court disagreed and allowed the conversation into evidence, stating that the opposite would be “at odds with Congress’s intent to make disabled persons full and equal participants in society.” www.ada.gov/newsltr1008.htm